Looking back at the last two years in Gamification, there is one big issue that I need to deal with; keeping ALL of my learners engaged. In 2017, my district adopted a new science curriculum. The goal of our first year was to be faithful to the program and put mechanics over the top of the the lessons, like power up cards, secret missions and a leaderboard. The game and the curriculum went hand in hand, making this very successful.
This year, new initiatives really kept Tom (@tank2023 on twitter) and I from fine tuning the game. The things we did last year still worked, but an abundance of new focuses kept us from fully capitalizing on early excitement. A big one was that we tried to split time with social studies and science which ended up being too much of a balancing act. This loss of focus for us led to a number of students disengaging from the experience.
All was not lost, as many students still loved to check out our headquarters site regularly, keep watch on the leaderboards and use power up cards when possible.Those experiences were still worth while and students enjoyed great moments. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for with our second group to complete the year. I suppose that there is a lesson here about quality over quantity and not extending yourself too far (a lesson I feel reminded of every so often), but there is a more learner focused question that I want to set my sights on. How do I keep more students engaged with the game to grow the excitement?
Step 1: All students moving forward all the time
One thing that caused drop off for some students was a lack of progress. Most of the experience points earned by students was based on secret missions, which were project completed in extra time or outside of class. I am proud that most students would complete one or two missions in a year, a few (20ish) went really far and did multiple missions per unit. However, the larger number would complete a few and lose interest. I want all players to gain points every week and keep their adventure in space going all year round.
Being a testing year, there are a lot of vocabulary words for my students to learn. So every week we will have a vocabulary game to play so that students can get these words down. Challenges will vary from a Kahoot to building representations out of various materials. They will be designed to be quick and decisive. This is dual purposed. One, I want it to be something students can be excited about each week. Two, I do not want to give this particular activity a lot of time out of class or afterwards for me. I want to be able to see the points quickly and pop them in. Quicker feedback and faster impact to the game.
To score, I am going to use a Mario Kart system of points. Top players will receive 25 points. Then one less for each place all the way down to 12, which all students will receive after 14th place. This weekly rewarding of XP based on a fun game is one hook to keep students involved. As an additional piece, a few weeks in I plan to introduce Michael Matera’s (@mrmatera on twitter) concept of the Wall of the Fallen. Students can challenge one another for extra points. The catch, of course, being that if you lose, you are unable to be part of a challenge again. There will be ways to avoid the wall or to get off the wall based on a characters powers (more on that in a later update). This should add a level of excitement to the weekly game.
We will also have in class events that will reward XP. Whether it be an activity that students will complete or an encounter with something in space, students will have regular opportunities to grow. I am looking at a couple different inspirations for this. Mostly how different role playing games add experience points. Then, as I get into planning out the units more, those encounters will start to take shape. So, I guess more on this over the summer and into fall. Except for the crisis deck, I can not wait to tell you about the crisis deck.